When the Golden Knights take the ice tonight, they’ll be without Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch, Nolan Patrick, and Zach Whitecloud (and potentially Mattias Janmark). That’s a little more than $29 million worth of salary on the shelf or about 36% of the salary cap.
Amazingly, until Karlsson misses a game, the Golden Knights are not the team suffering from the most salary cap money lost to injury. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been without Sidney Crosby, Evgenii Malkin, Marcus Pettersson, Brian Rust, Kris Letang, and Tristan Jarry for an insane $36 million missing due to injury.
NHL injury heat map through 28 October pic.twitter.com/bWqgn8mQLH
— NHLInjuryViz (@NHLInjuryViz) October 30, 2021
Nonetheless, with Crosby returning to action and Jarry and Pettersson expected to return from the COVID-19 list soon, the Golden Knights will take the injury crown by the end of the week.
The elephant in the room continues to be a lingering question about why the Golden Knights are seeing so many injuries.
One theory is Pete DeBoer’s “non-negotiable” commitment to blocking shots. The Golden Knights currently lead the league in blocked shots per 60 minutes with 18.1, nearly two shots better than every other team besides the New York Islanders. Vegas has blocked 147 shots in eight games, just two blocks behind the Red Wings who have played nine games and the Ducks who have played 10.
Injuries to Alec Martinez, Max Pacioretty, William Carrier, and Zach Whitecloud have all been sustained due to blocked shots. However, William Karlsson has experienced a similar injury as Pacioretty, and his was taken on a shot from his own teammate in the offensive zone.
History tells us there’s little correlation between total number of team blocked shots and injuries.
Last season the Golden Knights led the league blocking 843 shots. They finished in 23rd place in the league in Cap Hit of Injured Players (CHIP) according to NHL Injury Viz. In years prior, 15th, 21st, and 21st in blocked shots. Those seasons saw the Golden Knights rank 20th, 11th, and 11th in CHIP.
The team that led the league in blocks each season between 2017-18 and 2019-20 finished 14th (SJS), 20th (OTT), and 17th (NYI) in salary cap lost.
Another theory is age. The older the team, the more banged up they get over the course of a season.
The Golden Knights entered 2021-22 as the 22nd oldest team in the league. Pittsburgh is 6th.
Last year’s most injured team, Dallas, was the league’s 5th oldest team. The next team losing the most salary due to injuries was Chicago, who were the 26th oldest team.
Prior years continue to show little to no correlation between salary cap lost to injury and age of players.
Even just looking at the age of the Golden Knights currently out dispels that idea. Stone, Karlsson, Whitecloud, Tuch, and Patrick are all under the age of 29.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, there just isn’t a good explanation. In this instance, that seems to be the case. In the end, the best guess as to why this is happening is the one with the worst explanation, luck or coincidence.
VGK just need that luck to turn around, and soon.